I’ve come to a realization.

I really, really, really want to write about science fiction.

I mean, really.

It’s funny, because I don’t think genre is the most important thing about fiction. I’m willing to read, honestly, just about anything. I think it would be great if it were easier for authors to write in more than one genre without publishers scrambling to figure out how they’re going to market a new text separately from the established genre that particular writer is “supposed” to work in. I think it would be great if people quit shoving science fiction and fantasy into this man-made “sci-fi ghetto” so it can’t interact with “normal, respectable literature (/people)”.

As a consolation, at least our “ghetto” is vibrant and creative and user-driven — not unlike Christiania, the famed hippie neighborhood/micronation in the center of Copenhagen, only without all the anarchism and marijuana.

And even they find room for fantasy in their art.

But still, even though I don’t fall for the notion that certain genres are inherently better or worse than others, there is one bit of truth to it on a personal level: some genres speak more to particular people than others do. And I just happen to be a person who is drawn to science fiction.

There are many, many definitions of science fiction. As many, perhaps, as there are people who are aware of the term “science fiction”. Common ones address the themes of scientific and technological advancement, and usually throw in some references to the future or aliens or space travel. These certainly appear frequently in science fiction, and I’d be lying if I said that I don’t greatly enjoy many stories that rely heavily on these topics, but I don’t see them as the end-all definition of what science fiction is and can be.

Science fiction — like its twin sister, Fantasy — is, at its best, an exploration of what humanity is really about. And while I’m aware that the same could be said about literature in general, I think science fiction gives us the opportunity to look at it from angles unavailable from an ordinary vantage point. What makes us still human, science fiction asks, when we are pulled out of our familiar context? If this thing or that thing were in some way different, what might it have changed? It seeks to pull humanity out of the known and into the unknown, and then see what happens.

In deciding on a central topic about which to orient my writing, I quickly discovered that I couldn’t go without addressing religion and spirituality. That decision has not changed. I have, however, come to the additional realization that the role of fiction, and especially that of science fiction, is just as important to my overall worldview and literary background. I should have realized this sooner: if you visit my archive and go to my first published post, you’ll find something that I wrote with spirituality in mind; and if you go to the second post, you’ll find something I wrote after watching a particularly moving episode of one of my favorite sci-fi shows. So yes, there they are, scripture and space opera cooperating with my creative psyche right from the start. And that’s not even addressing the other essay from which I pulled the phrase “scripture and space opera”.

Considering the never-ending (and, in my opinion, inane) arguments about various incompatibilities between faith and science, to some it might seem like an odd combination. In fact, I hope to address that in full in another post. But I’ve written a lot for one go, and for now I think a small preview would suffice:

In Norse Mythology, the world started with Muspellsheimr, a great realm of fire, and Niflheimr, a great realm of ice. Between them stretched a great void called the Ginnungagap. But instead of destroying one another, fire and ice mixed until out of the resulting water sprang life.

And with that I think I’ve also proven, once and for all, how much I’m always, always thinking about Scandinavia.

(image sources: Orion Nebula © NASA; Christiania mural from Wikimedia Commons)

Bleeding Trees

I read a lovely quote today.

In truth, I read a lot of wonderful quotes. This happens when you’re someone like me, one who eats words and ideas for sustenance and then throws them around into huge piles and files of stories and terms and theories and thoughts, things I might want to think again someday and things I hope I never have to. However, though I am afraid to admit it, I am not always happy with the way I read. How long has it been since I finished a book? Over a year, perhaps. At any one moment I’m reading at least half a dozen, then by the time I try to finish one, I’ve forgotten the beginning, so I find myself starting over. Though it pains me to say it, I skim. I wish I wouldn’t. There are just too many things to read, too many things to see. That’s what I tell myself anyway, while I sit on my bed and wonder why I don’t want to read anything.

In my efforts to make my reading have meaning, which in no way (read: every way) have to with my reborn desire to write a science fiction epic, I found myself looking back at old blogs and publications that I had long neglected to read intently. One of these led me to an essay, one by James Goldberg, a writer whom I have admired for quite a few years now but whom, clearly, I did not understand as well as I thought I had. He writes:

I like to think; I like to talk; I like to dream out loud; I love playing with language with the reckless abandon of a kid whose parents could only afford that one toy. But I hate writing. I hate losing layers of the human and interactive vibrancy of a good conversation as I try to force thoughts into the narrow confines of paper. I hate thinking about how to please a publisher and find an audience you can point to on a demographics chart and maybe someday get my name on a check after I finish marketing a piece. And oh how I hate the pretentious parts of the academic arena of writing—which, unfortunately, seems to be the clearest available economic alternative to mass publication.

Maybe most of all, though, I hate writing because when I write, I often feel as if I am trying to carve wounds into dead trees in the hopes that they will still bleed. Who exactly, I keep asking myself, shall I make them bleed for?

As I write, I wonder whom I write for. “Myself”, comes the obvious answer, but even as I say that I know it is not quite enough. If I write only for myself, the words might as well be put in a secret diary, locked first in a cipher for which only I have the key and then in a safe for which only I have the code. I write to be heard, even if only by the dim whispers of the vast frontier that we call the Internet. When I go about “carving wounds into dead trees”, I do it in the hope that the scars will mean something to someone, though I might not be there to witness the event. I worry that I won’t have an audience, that nobody wants to hear the pseudo-philosophical ramblings of a naïve young woman with a lot of words but not much substance. I worry that I will succumb to pressure to copy another’s voice, in the hopes of attracting an audience that would not otherwise be mine. And then I worry that I worry. Worry and me, we are old friends.

I will write what I like to write, and sometimes I will hope to write what others like to read. If nobody listens, well then, at least it wasn’t for lack of an opportunity. No one can hear words that are not spoken.